Paradise in Pimlico?

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July 26th 2011

I have wanted to go to Hunan for a long time – people invariably return waxing lyrical about the unbelievably delicious series of dishes that appear as if by magic at the table. Also in a recent FT article Jancis Robinson (click here for the full article) included the Peng’s brilliant wine list in her top eight in London. All in all pretty compelling reasons to go – and I finally made it last week.

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What can I say – it really is that good. The room is simple but charming, the service is courteous but absolutely not overbearing and, best of all, you don’t even have to choose what you eat – everything works together to frame and flatter the main action.

A polite enquiry as to whether we liked seafood, fish or meat – to which we enthusiastically replied “all of them” and we were off. I will not regale you with details of each dish – there were so many it would end up as a shopping list and I am not sure my humble prose can do justice to the flights of culinary excellence we enjoyed.

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My absolute highlight, extraordinarily, was a vegetable dish – crispy beans with chilli and garlic. The prawn version of this is my addiction at our local Vietnamese restaurant, but I am not sure I will ever feel quite the same way about it again, after this exalted exemplary version.

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With the rise of the wine market in China the subject of matching wine to Chinese food all too often rears its head. I hear rumours that Sarment are publishing a book solely on that subject and only in Chinese – so no enlightenment for the rest of us there! Tom tells of the most sophisticated wine dinners in Hong Kong, and while certain particularly chilli-fuelled dishes might have an adverse effect on the palate, I see no reason for Asian cuisines to be more or less difficult to match than any others.

We drank well, and possibly too much for lunchtime. Billecart Salmon Champagne (not the rose), a Trimbach Riesling, Tollot-Beaut’s lovely Chorey-les-Beaune 2007 and a glass of delicious Austrian Beerenauslese instead of pudding.

A quite magnificent lunch. I did not see the bill so cannot comment on value for money – but for pure unadulterated enjoyment Hunan is off the chart.